We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Volavka and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, what are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by nature and story, and the connections between everything. Story is a huge part of how we experience and engage with nature– it’s what binds humans to one another, and with the natural world around us. I’m always looking for ways to use story to connect people to each other and to nature. I love working with natural items, and turning them into something a little unexpected, or juxtaposing things that you might not otherwise think of putting together. My art pieces are made from natural objects that inspire me through their colors (such as dyed wool or bright colored beetles) that are set in a way to draw attention not only to their colors and textures, but hopefully to create a small story or emotion in the person holding them. Smell and touch are important parts of my process, and I spend a lot of time thinking about textures in particular, whether that’s in the physical sense with art or in the metaphorical sense with stories. My first novel, Threadwalkers, was all about the connections between past and present, and finding your way through those connections. (It just happened to take place in a science fiction time travel story!)
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career has been anything but linear, and I think embracing that has been an important thing for me. It can be hard to see the progress you’ve made when you’re in the middle of it, but I find if I keep letting myself learn and explore and try new things, it fuels my creative output as well. I’ve also learned to adapt my own sense of “success”– the world is quite different than when I went to college and success also looks different in a lot of ways. (Social media wasn’t so much a thing back then, for instance!) I’ve also learned a lot about the importance of connections, and the value in being interdisciplinary. I used to worry that my dabbling, my dipping into different kinds of media, was a hindrance, but I’ve learned to embrace that as well. It all feeds each other.
I am most proud of the ways I’ve been able to weave my seemingly varying interests together, and to find a thread running through them all. It has not been an easy journey, and I’m certainly still closer to the beginning than even the middle! Every day I am looking for ways to try new things, to keep learning, and to keep telling stories in new and interesting ways. One of the things I’ve held onto over the years has been the idea that it isn’t always the person who is best at something who succeeds, but rather the one who is persistent. I’m persistent as anything. Ha!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Obviously we’ve got to start with food for this one. To show someone the best San Diego time, I would make sure that we hit several good brunch places! My favorites include Great Maple, Fig Tree Cafe, and Kindred! For dinner, I’d take them down to Gaslamp at least one night to check out Café Sevilla for tapas and up to Convoy for Dumpling Inn. Kindred for dinner is also a must (Kindred any time is a must, tbh!). Del Sur Mexican Cantina is another local gem, and One Door North is also a fave. And we can’t forget cocktails– Polite Provisions is A++ as is Noble Experiment.
Other than food, we’d have to check out a bunch of local beaches, and some of my favorites are down south– I love Silver Strand State Park. And hiking at Mission Trails is another must, there are so many good examples of local habitats and wildlife there. I also take everyone up to Torrey Pines to hike from the top of the cliffs down to the beach, and show them the gorgeous views there. (I guess if you’re visiting me, expect a lot of outdoor activities!) For shopping, I like to visit South Park– Bad Madge is my favorite local vintage shop! Little Dame on Adams Avenue is a great local boutique where you can find all kinds of things from indie artists (including yours truly!). I also love taking people to Balboa Park for the museums, the interesting architecture, and the Spanish Village Art Center. There’s always something interesting happening there, and you can meet so many great local artists.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many people and organizations that have helped me get to where I am, and to continue growing. I have to give credit to my writing mentor, Ruth Moose, who is a poet and novelist from North Carolina. I also have to thank the folks at Project Dragonfly, at Miami University, who helped me combine my art and my science into one complete whole through their Masters program. And locally I want to shoutout Little Dame. The folks at Little Dame are amazing, and I want everyone to check them out!